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5 Top Challenges of SAN Design: View from our SAN Design Experts – Part 2

Last week, here, I started my 2 part blog on some of the top SAN design and deployment challenges we see.  As I mentioned, I put this together with help from my SAN expert colleagues, Barbara Ledda and Wolfgang Lang.  We are all part of the Cisco Services professional services team, where we experience first-hand the challenges of adopting new technologies including SAN.

Last week, we discussed the following challenges:

#1 Don’t assume that your server multi-pathing software is installed or working, or even licensed, or installed but never used/tested by your server team!

#2 Tendency to significantly over-estimate utilization on the SAN network. 

Lets’ now discuss our challenges #3 – #5, which will discuss interoperability, expertise and architectural details respectively.  Architectural details as it turns out is a key concern of some of you reading Part 1 of this blog – a few questions came in and you can view the discussion here (and thanks to my colleagues Venkat Kirishnamurthyi and Jing Luo for contributing to this discussion). With this in mind, you may find the Cisco MDS architecture discussion video here also useful.

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ITD Deployment with Transparent mode security devices

ITD (Intelligent Traffic Director) is getting a lot of interest about transparent (Layer 2) mode device support.

Here is a 10 minute video that shows step by step ITD deployment for Transparent mode security devices, such as Firewalls, IPS, IDS, Web application Firewalls (WAF), ASA, Cisco Sourcefire, etc:

ITD is a hardware based multi-Tbps Layer 4 load-balancing, traffic steering and clustering solution on Nexus 5k/6k/7k/9k series of switches. It supports IP-stickiness, resiliency, NAT (EFT), VIP, health monitoring, sophisticated failure handling policies, N+M redundancy, IPv4, IPv6, VRF, weighted load-balancing, bi-directional flow-coherency, and IPSLA probes including DNS. There is no service module or external appliance needed.

Solution Guide: ITD with Layer 2 Firewall / IPS / IDS

Here is more information about ITD:

Please send email to if you have any questions.


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vBrownBag Cisco ACI Panel Session at VMworld 2015

ACIKewlHave you seen the vBrownBag Tech Talks at previous conferences or maybe checked them out on YouTube? If not, I highly recommend it. If you’re not familiar with vBrownBag it is actually several things! For one, it’s a weekly podcast (or videocast, really) with different guest hosts every week who usually give about an hour presentation and demo on various technologies. vBrownBag has also taken on a strong role at tech conferences by allowing presenters from every arena give lightning tech talks that are streamed live as well as recorded for later viewing on YouTube. In essence, it’s an awesome and free way to get and give information.

Cisco has long supported the vBrownBag effort and we will be participating in the vBrownBag Tech Talks on Monday evening at 5:30pm in the Hang Space at VMworld. Instead of doing what we normally do, which is one person giving a presentation, we’ve decided to do a panel session with some of the fantastic folks from the Insieme BU including Joe Onisick, Carly Stoughton, Yogesh Kaushik, and me (Lauren Malhoit) as the moderator.

I’m excited about this panel session for several reasons. For one, I’m also a part of the vBrownBag crew so it’s always fun when these two worlds collide. More than that, though, is getting to hear these brilliant people talk about new features in Application Centric Infrastructure. While there are several new features in the new release of ACI, the panel will be concentrate on the new Troubleshooting Wizard, ACI Optimizer, which is a capacity planning tool, and last but not least the enhanced microsegmentation offerings. Not only are we utilizing dynamic end point groups to enable microsegmentation, we’ve also included a distributed firewall which can do stateful packet inspection between end point groups. Read More »

Automating Configuration in a Multi-Sourced Environment

The landscape of IT has changed. The single-source provider era is quickly coming to an end as more companies embrace the world of multi-sourcing. In a 2014 report by IAOP & Information Services Group (ISG) Annual State of the Industry1, it stated that the number of enterprise IT organizations using multi-sourcing as a strategy increased by 75% in that year and predictions for 2015 shows continued growth.

Companies are moving more rapidly to a multi-sourcing strategy to achieve greater agility and improved customer satisfaction, and it’s paying off. Effective multi-sourcing companies are experiencing improved performance, reduced IT costs, acquiring best-in-class expertise while freeing up time and resources so personnel can focus on the company’s core business.

Automation Is at the Forefront of IT Change

Girl and guy in high-tech areaThe speed of change in IT is getting faster and innovation via automation is at the forefront of this change. FAST IT is helping enterprises keep up with this accelerated pace.

Fast IT simplifies operations at a time when complexity is mounting — and IT budgets are flat. By offering automated, programmable, and agile infrastructure, Fast IT frees IT organizations from manual configuration, changes, and maintenance.2

In my January blog post, Building Innovation: Achieve Fast IT with Customers, I shared with you that if companies are going to deliver new solutions at a more rapid pace, IT needs to be able to integrate and automate all support interactions that it is responsible for delivering.

There Are Challenges

Just as there are benefits with multi-sourcing, there are some challenges. Multi-sourcing creates new complexities that can stand in the way of business progress. Forward-thinking, proactive companies can address these challenges head-on by answering crucial questions such as:

  • How do we implement end-to-end delivery methods in a multi-vendor environment?
  • How do we manage the configuration of our devices when changes are being made by multiple outsource providers?
  • How do we onboard new providers with minimal effort and impact on the ecosystem?

Changes made within the ecosystem can easily disrupt and fragment service delivery causing your company and other service providers to be out of policy, SLA or regulatory compliance.

Case in Point

We recently saw a situation at a large financial institution where the customer was facing a security audit that they were most likely going to fail. They called us for help. In just two-and-a-half weeks following service activation we had updated nearly 2,000 configurations and the company passed their security audit. They were so pleased with our performance they gave us 23,000 devices to manage for policy, configuration, and change.

Two men in tech area

But, that’s not the end of the story. The bank wanted to benchmark the effectiveness of their service providers against their established service level agreements (SLAs). Immediately we knew an automated closed loop process was needed. Our Compliance Management and Configuration Service (CMCS) coupled with ServiceGrid fit the bill.

When this project goes live, ServiceGrid, a tool that gets the right data to the right place and person, will be used to connect the customer and their service providers ticketing systems to one another as well as to CMCS. In turn, CMCS will perform a baseline analysis of all connected network devices and elements and automatically stabilize and upgrade them to Corporate Standards. This improves communication among all connected parties. It also gives the bank greater transparency into their vendor management activities and provides real-time compliance monitoring.

Combining ServiceGrid and CMCS enables us to automate multi-vendor network configuration and compliance while giving the customer higher value and a better outcome than if we offered either one of the services alone. The bank’s desire to build a robust, elegant, secure, and seamless multi-party network became an opportunity to let two of our premier services shine, making the future brighter for our customer and Cisco Services.

What about you? How is your organization addressing configuration management in a multi-sourced environment?


CMCS At-A-Glance
ServiceGrid Overview Brochure
CMCS Integration with ServiceGrid (technical white paper)


  1. Annual State of the Industry Jagdish R. Dalal, IAOP
  2. Fast IT: Accelerating Innovation in the Internet of Everything Era

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Designing and Deploying Scalable SAN using Cisco MDS 9396S

Data is the lifeblood of your business, and it continues to multiply exponentially, creating big challenges for today’s storage area network managers. Accessing that data quickly and cost-effectively 24 hours a day, 7 days a week requires a SAN architecture that can scale easily and economically while supporting a wide variety of protocols and storage methods.

Attend this Webinar:  August 25th 8:00 PST.  Learn how to design and deploy a next-generation storage area network that scales easily yet cost-effectively using the new Cisco MDS 9396 16G Multilayer Fabric Switch.

This live 60-minute webcast will show you how the innovative new Cisco MDS 9396S 16G Multilayer Fabric Switch can help you overcome your SAN design challenges. See how this next-generation solution delivers enterprise-class performance, pay-as-you-grow scale options, and true plug-and-play installation at a remarkably affordable price.

Webinar topics to be discussed include:

  • Introduction to the new Cisco MDS 9396S
  • Architectural innovations
  • Enterprise-class features and scale options
  • Design and deployment scenarios
  • Best practices for implementation
  • Q&A

REGISTER NOW:  Webinar Aug 25th :  8:00 PST

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